JONESBORO — Arkansas State University officials say their new athletic director has the energy, enthusiasm and experience they sought to lead the department.
And as a bonus, he happens to be one of the university’s own.
Former ASU football player Terry Mohajir was introduced as the school’s 11th Director of Athletics during a press conference Wednesday morning at the Convocation Center. Mohajir became emotional while reflecting on his time as a student at ASU, which included working under former football coach Ray Perkins and then-athletic director Charley Thornton after his athletic eligibility had expired.
"That was 20 years ago this fall, so I’m right back where I started my athletics career," Mohajir said, pausing a few seconds to regain his composure. "I’m so excited to be back to serve this emerging university as your director of athletics."
Since graduating from ASU in 1993, the 42-year-old Mohajir has worked in various capacities at three NCAA Division I institutions, compiling a resume that made him the choice to lead Red Wolf athletics.
Mohajir comes from the University of Kansas, where he served 13 months as Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Chief Marketing Officer. He also served as Florida Atlantic’s Senior Associate Director of Athletics for External Relations from 2004-11, and worked at Missouri- Kansas City from 1997-2004 as an assistant athletic director.
"Terry is unusual in the sense that he has the experience at every possible level of athletics from running sprints on the field and coaching to administration to fundraising," ASU Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson said. "He’s been at medium-sized schools that struggled with budgets, he’s been at mid-majors, and he’s been at Big 12, BCS- qualifying schools. He has that unique package that we were looking for. More than that, as I’ve gotten to know him, he’s a person of great integrity and enthusiasm, and we need that enthusiasm because we know we have big challenges."
Mohajir has a three-year contract with an annual salary of $139,671, which is the state line item maximum for his position. He succeeds Dean Lee, who was reassigned to an associate vice chancellor position in August.
Fundraising and facilities development experiences were high on ASU’s criteria for the new athletic director, and Mohajir has had success in those areas.
Mohajir was responsible for a $70 million fundraising campaign to build FAU’s on-campus football stadium, which opened last fall, and he was also responsible for Kansas’ Williams Educational Fund, which totaled more than $22 million in revenue for the 2012 fiscal year.
Two weeks ago ASU announced plans for a $22 million football facility project that will include an indoor practice facility as well as a football operations building. The project will be funded through private donations.
"Raising money in this climate is always a challenge, but it’s got to happen. It’s got to happen," Mohajir said when asked about raising funds for the construction project. "It’s going to be phenomenal. It’s going to be as big time as any place in the country. Those are exactly what I’ve talked about — build the budgets, build facilities.
"We’re going to be going down two parallel tracks. We’re going to be building the budget, we’re going to be building facilities. We’ve got to do them at the same time. It’s big time."
Mohajir said he will start his tenure with a 90-day plan. He intends to structure his mornings to deal with athletic department management, then handle external work in the afternoons. Figuring out how to build ASU’s budget is one of the primary tasks.
ASU system president Dr. Chuck Welch, who fielded most of the inquiries into the job and had a key role in vetting candidates, said Mohajir is the perfect fit at the perfect time.
"Right after we announced we were going to have a search, I said that some of the most critical things we were going to be looking for was someone with a great deal of energy, someone with enthusiasm, someone with a background in fundraising and facilities development, and someone who had been at an institution that mirrored the type of program we want to move to," Welch said. "Nobody is going to question Terry Mohajir’s energy. I think you’ll see that. Everyone that we talked to said this guy has a tireless work ethic and is just a real go-getter. He’s really enthusiastic about the university. I think you saw that in his emotion because of the time he spent here and the opportunity to really take it where we want to go.
"Fundraising, facilities development, what they did at FAU was remarkable. The fact that he was the man Kansas brought in to, for lack of a better term, clean up the problems that they had, I think speaks volumes. Then certainly a Big 12 program is going to be at that kind of level that we aspire ours to be long term. I think he fit all of those criteria, and then you add in the fact that he is a graduate of this institution and knows this area. I think that was just sort of the cherry on the top."